Collected Thoughts

October 2017
October 7, 2017

I have returned from my travels.

A thing I noticed immediately once I got back was that I was being bounced and jounced on America’s amply pothole-supplied roads. I drove more than 750 miles in England and not once did I encounter such a roadway. But then I realized that’s because we’re rich and they’re poor, and so I was thereby made proud to be an American.

During my travels in England I saw exactly two pickup trucks. How, I asked myself, can the English get by without that basic necessity of American life? So far, I’ve reached no answer.

In any case, I had a good time. Yet travel by its very nature is tiring so I’m looking forward to relaxing for a while.

From time to time I’ll regale you with some of my journal entries from the trip.

October 9, 2017

I see that polls are reporting that really stupid people are less pleased with Mr. Trump than they used to be.

Should that make me happy?

The political questions we have to ask ourselves currently are more weird than I ever thought I would have to confront. And what’s worse is that I fear they will get even weirder than they are now.

October 10, 2017

If we agree that suffering is bad, then it’s only sane to say that it’s bad for everybody.

Anyone who wishes other people to suffer, strikes me as monstrous. And that’s true regardless of who those other people are or what they may have done. The latter is irrelevant so far as suffering goes.

If you think that’s crazy you should read Peter Singer’s Writings on an Ethical Life.

He’s smarter than you are.

October 11, 2017

Ernest Becker, who died more than forty years ago, remains famous for his book, The Denial of Death, which was published just about a year before his death. The basic thesis of his seminal work was that trying to find some way to avoid facing the truth that we humans are mortal has been the primary human endeavor through the ages.

People simply don’t like the thought of dying, or, at least, most people don’t.

Becker argued that the natural urge to deny mortality, along with the effort to achieve a heroic self-image, were the two root causes of human evil. I guess that makes sense because ambitions that override any restraint, will lead people to do anything, no matter how horrendous it might be.

The denial of death has been the progenitor of virtually all religions, and religions are pretty good candidates for the worst impulses humans have exhibited.

Whether we can find a way to battle death without actually increasing its occurrence is the central question about humanity’s future. I don’t know the answer to it. But, at least I think we should try. The desire to hold death off -- for ourselves -- is not going away, so we really do need to do our best to transform it from a source of evil into something decent and honorable.

Even so, I know it’s not going to be easy.

©John R. Turner

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